catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Civil unions vs gay marriage in the polls

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An article in this morning’s Age is headlined ‘Poll shows support for gay marriages’. This, I think, is an exaggeration. What it shows is a plurality of positive responses to the question ‘Do you support or oppose legislation in the ACT to allow civil unions for same-sex couples?’ – 45% say they support the ACT law, 35% oppose it, and 17% neither support nor oppose it. That’s quite a big undecided group – when in February Newspoll read out a ‘partly agree/disagree’ option to a similar question the total agreeing was 52%, and the total opposing was 37%, with 11% undecided.

But there is an important distinction in many people’s minds between ‘civil unions’ and ‘marriage’ – though the ACT legislation did try to blur it. Opponents of gay marriage such as John Heard and Janet Albrechtsen, for example, support improved legal recognition of gay relationships while still rejecting gay marriage. A 2004 poll on gay marriage found 38% support. Children are at the centre of this dispute, and when children were specifically mentioned in a 2003 poll question support for change dropped to a bit over a third.

Looking at these surveys and other polling the electorate seems divided into three roughly equivalent groups – those favouring better legal treatment of gay people, those opposing it, and those whose views are open. This latest poll has the familiar pattern of the young being more in favour than the old, so it’s pretty clear how these issues are going to play out in the long term. But in the meantime, the emphasis will be on that middle third who seem persuadable by either side in the debate.


Written by Admin

June 20, 2006 at 9:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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